Prerana Sastri

Editorial Assistant at Kitchen Stories

instagram.com/perryonthecake/

The first dish that pops up into our minds when we think of leftover rice is, most likely, fried rice. It’s been the talk of the town recently with Uncle Roger serving up some hilarious do’s and definite don’ts when it comes to making egg fried rice. But there’s more to leftover rice than fried rice! Most cuisines where rice is a staple have their own ways of giving leftover rice new life, whether it's as a bowl of congee or sweet rice pudding.

My family has South Indian roots and we ate rice almost every day. One thing that my dad absolutely hates is food waste. So if ever there was any food leftover from dinner, it had to be repurposed for breakfast or lunch the next day. He would walk into the kitchen, revamp the leftovers and call it a shaadi—a wedding of sorts. You know… “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” He’d whip up parathas with leftover dal or sabzi, make tamarind rice or (my personal favorite) lemon rice with day-old rice, and sizzle up some bread upma with stale bread. He’s truly the king of leftover makeovers and I’m blessed to have learned from the best. My most successful leftover story? A butter chicken biryani whipped up after a night where I made way too much butter chicken.

Is it safe to eat leftover rice?

While researching the topic of leftover rice, some common questions that came up, surprised me. Questions like, “Is it dangerous to eat leftover rice?” and “Can old rice make you sick?” Of course, for someone who grew up eating various fusions of leftover rice, I had to look into it. And, well, it’s true! Cooked rice can contain a bacteria called bacillus cereus, which develops if cooked rice is cooled too slowly or left out of the fridge for too long. These toxins can definitely upset your stomach (they’re not deadly), so it’s key to cool and refrigerate cooked rice as soon as possible when you plan to store it. And you should always, always reheat it to a piping hot temperature before eating.

What’s the best way to store leftover rice?

The easiest and safest way to store cooked rice is to divide it into portions, transfer it to a baking sheet, and spread it out into a thin, even layer with a spatula, so it can cool quickly. Once it cools down, transfer it to an airtight container, pop it into the fridge, and use it within no more than two or three days. Make sure the cooked rice is not left at room temperature for over two hours before storing.

Additionally, cooked rice can be freezed in resealable plastic bags and stored for a longer time. Before freezing, you can also add a small knob of butter or some olive oil to make sure the rice doesn't dry out.

What’s the best way to reheat leftover rice?

As mentioned before, it is essential to reheat leftover rice to a temperature of at least 73°C/165°F. Depending on how you’re planning to reuse the rice, you can safely reheat the rice in one of three ways:

In a microwave: This is the quickest way to reheat most leftovers, including rice. Use a microwave safe bowl, add in the rice with a splash of water, and microwave for a few minutes.

In a pan: Put the rice into a cold pan and use a fork to separate any clumps. Splash in some water, cover the pan, and let it steam until piping hot over medium-low heat.

In an oven: Transfer the rice to a baking dish or tray, separate any clumps with a fork and then cover with aluminium foil. Bake at 150°C/300°F for approx. 20 – 25 minutes.

17 recipes that use leftover rice

Here are a few recipe ideas to get you started from our editors and chefs, our foodie community, and a handful of others that I absolutely love (and you can save to your Kitchen Stories cookbooks using our cookbook+ feature). From crazy good fried rice to vegan burritos, we got you covered.

Kitchen Stories recipes

Black bean and rice veggie burritos

Black bean and rice veggie burritos

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Tofu stir-fry with rice

Tofu stir-fry with rice

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Breakfast fried rice

Breakfast fried rice

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Rice pudding with baked plums

Rice pudding with baked plums

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Congee with ground pork and asparagus

Congee with ground pork and asparagus

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Tex-Mex stuffed peppers

Tex-Mex stuffed peppers

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Recipes from our community

Chinese fried rice

Chinese fried rice

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Rice with chanterelle and herbs

Rice with chanterelle and herbs

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Veggie fajita power bowl

Veggie fajita power bowl

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Kimchi fried rice

Kimchi fried rice

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Nasi Lemak (Fatty Rice) (Malaysia’s National Dish)

Nasi Lemak (Fatty Rice) (Malaysia’s National Dish)

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Sticky rice with turkey, vegetables and mushrooms

Sticky rice with turkey, vegetables and mushrooms

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Recipes from around the web

South-Indian lemon rice
Rice Pakoras
Vegan chai-spiced rice pudding
Tawa pulao
Curried chicken and cashew rice

What’s your favorite way to use up leftover rice? Let us know in the comments below!

More delicious ideas for you